Page:John Masefield.djvu/10

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language, The Everlasting Mercy tells the story of Saul Kane, drunkard and poacher, his spiritual revolt and final conversion. Recalling the inception of the poem, Masefield said: "The Everlasting Mercy began to form images in my mind early in the morning of a fine day in May, 1911. I had risen very early and had gone out into the morning with a friend who had to ride to catch a train some miles away. On our way down a lane in the freshness and brightness of the dew we saw coming towards us, up a slope in a field close to us, a plough team of noble horses followed by the advancing breaking wave of red clay thrust aside by the share. The ploughman was like Piers Plowman or Chaucer's ploughman, a staid, elderly, honest, and most kindly man whom we had long known and respected. The beauty and nobility of this sight moved me profoundly all day long." That night he began the poem. It marked a rebellion from the contemporary spiritless poetry, and it won for Masefield the Edmond de Polignac prize of five hundred pounds and world-wide recognition. It was his first book to be published in America.

Closely following The Everlasting Mercy came The Widow in the Bye Street, written in much the same iconoclastic manner. It tells a tragic tale of Widow Gurney, whose son, Jimmy, is hanged for murder, causing her to lose her reason. Of these two remarkable poems Masefield tells us: "In The Everlasting Mercy a violent man is made happy; in The Widow in the Bye Street a good woman is made unhappy. In neither case does the event fall by merit or demerit, but by the workings of Fate, which come into human affairs with the effect of justice done, for reasons not apparent to us."

In 1913 he again aroused the enthusiasm and acclaim of the critics. This time with Dauber—that magnificent "spiritual vision of life." "'Dauber' is a great poem. Great because of its pictures of the storm, the sea-night, the ship entering the calm bay at day-dawn. But great also as a book of revelation; as a book of intense, terrible, pitiful heroic vision; as a sensitive record of the sea, full of the bright face of danger, the endurance

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